A Handup Instead of a Handout
Thomas Anderson lived on the streets for 18 years. The tall and thin American Indian man is assertive and friendly, and he wears two braids and a self-made cowry shell necklace. It wasn’t long ago that he was homeless.
Anderson earned a degree in architecture and owned two restaurants in Sacramento, California. He dreamed of designing solar-powered houses and working as a draft artist. Before he could achieve those dreams, alcohol and drugs took over his life and he became homeless.
Anderson moved to North Carolina and met his wife. Together they moved to Seattle. She stayed at a shelter in a building above Boomtown Café, while he lived on the streets.
Boomtown Café serves healthy and affordable meals to people who are homeless or have low incomes. The only non-profit restaurant in Seattle, Boomtown serves breakfast for $1.25 and lunch for $1.75. Customers can pay with cash, food stamps or, as Anderson did, through bartered labor. One meal is earned for only 15 minutes of labor.
“Boomtown is a great opportunity and it’s a great organization,” because they help people, said Anderson, who began volunteering at the café by working in the dish room.
“It’s up to the person to get back on track,” said Anderson, “and Boomtown helps out any way they can.” Boomtown helped Anderson submit a Low Income Housing Institute application, and he secured an apartment for himself and his wife. Now he works full-time as a cook at the Wintonia, one of the low-income housing facilities where Boomtown provides contract meals.
“Boomtown has helped me get up and off the street. They’ve given me a hand up instead of a handout. They’ve made me feel good about myself,” said Anderson.